Tears flowed when Dilma Rousseff addressed the nation for a last time Thursday before driving away from Brazil’s presidential palace to the chanting of supporters.
The tears weren’t Rousseff’s though.
The former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured in the 1970s was stoic in her final official appearance, repeating her defiant description of the impeachment vote against her in the Senate the previous night as a “coup.”
Dozens of staff packed the press conference, nudging each other to get a better view, and several wiping away tears.
Marcia Kumer, an engineer working for the government, clutched 14 red roses that she hoped to give the departing president. Kumer, 56, couldn’t contain herself as she vented her anger at the impeachment.
“We will fight. We’ll be in the streets fighting to protect our rights,” she said, her voice rising and tears filling her eyes.
Rousseff, wearing a white jacket, black trousers and pearl earrings, was engulfed in a swirl of bodyguards and well-wishers as she left the press conference. Kumer just got through the crush and handed over the roses.
“I called her ‘our dear,’ and said we are together,” the shaken Kumer said. “She thanked me. She said ‘We will go forward.’”
Leaving the Palacio Planalto, Rousseff then embraced some of the several hundred leftist activists crowding behind a barricade in the street.
Cheers went up and in Brazilian fashion the protesters soon started to resemble a happy football crowd, waving their arms and singing “Ole, ole, ole ola, Dilma!”
Rousseff, a solitary woman in a large group of suited bodyguards, inched her way along the barricade, clearly enjoying the respite from a grim night of watching the Senate strip her of her mandate – and perhaps reluctant to reach her car, which was parked a short distance away.
Stopping to take a microphone and address the crowd, she said: “It’s sad because we are leaving today, a time I would call tragic time for our country.”
Behind her came ministers and her political mentor and predecessor in the presidency, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. But this was all about Rousseff.
As president she became so unpopular that even Brazilians with little love for Temer supported her removal. Yet there is also widespread recognition that many of the lawmakers impeaching her have far worse records on corruption and on Thursday the sympathy could not be held back.
“Out with Temer, out with Temer!” the crowd began to chant.
Rousseff, 75, will be allowed to keep her presidential residence while serving a six month suspension pending judgement in the Senate on charges that her government illegally manipulated the budget to cover up shortfalls.
She was clearly in no hurry to get there, but finally Rousseff came to the end of the line. The black car waited.
Just as she was about to reach the car, she turned and walked back a few steps toward the Planalto, this time waving to rows of government employees who stood by an ornamental pond and in the windows looking down.
Then there was no way to delay any longer.
Rousseff blew a kiss and, submerged again by her security detail, took the last step to the car. The convoy of seven vehicles took off at speed.
Rousseff the ex-guerrilla had left the limelight. Her new kind of life in the political shadows had begun.